Summer is a good time to gather friends to share some small plates; if you give this one a try, let us know in the comments!
Crumble the Roquefort into a bowl and mash lightly with a fork. Add the pine nuts, raisins, wine or sherry and cream and mix to a paste. Remove the pits (stones) from the prunes and fill the cavities with the Roquefort paste. Close the prunes and secure with a wooden toothpick (cocktail stick). Put the prunes on a plate, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
Note: To use standard prunes, soak them in warm water to rehydrate them, following the directions on the package, then remove the pits.
Shared with permission from The Book of Tapas by Simone and Inés Ortega, published by Phaidon Press, 2010, $39.95. Photograph by Mauricio Salinas.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has signed a deal with Harper to write a book about "her experiences and those of her family during and immediately after World War II, drawing on her own memories, her parents' written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and other primary source materials." The book will be called While I Was Growing Up.
Albright has already published one memoir, Madam Secretary, in 2003. Her other books include The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs; Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership; and Read My Pins, which BookPage reviewer Lacey Galbraith called "a fascinating and bejeweled look at America, and American foreign policy." (On a related note, my mother absolutely raved about the Albright pin exhibit at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, so see it if you have a chance; right now it's at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.)
As a native Arkansan, I paid particular attention to the Clinton Administration even when I was in elementary school, and I have long admired Albright—not least of all because we are alumnae of the same college. Madam Secretary was both revealing and gossipy (important traits in a memoir, huh?), and I look forward to this new chapter.
What about you?
Another author with a Nashville connection made news today: Ann Patchett has completed and sold a new novel to Harper for publication in 2011.
The new book is described as "Conradian" and is set in the Amazon jungle, where two female physicians make "hitherto unimaginable discoveries on both a personal and global scale."
South America was also the setting of Patchett's biggest hit (and one of my favorite novels ever), Bel Canto. [Read Patchett's behind-the-book story on that novel here.] Will the new novel and its similar blend of the personal and the global strike the same chord with readers? As Patchett fans, we can't wait to find out.
Maybe it's because everyone and her brother has a book idea swirling around in their heads these days, but it seems like the most-asked author question is: where did you get the idea for this book?
That's why we try to share as many "behind the book" stories with you on BookPage.com as we can. The last few weeks have brought two truly impressive contributions that you shouldn't miss.
Mystery lovers should love reading Rosemary Herbert's poignant story of working with the late Tony Hillerman to compile an updated version of Dorothy Sayers' classic, An Omnibus of Crime.
When Oxford University Press asked me to find an important American mystery writer to co-edit The Oxford Book of American Detective Stories with me, Tony leapt to mind. But I wondered if he could make time for the project. So I offered to do all the groundwork and to write all the essays introducing each story and author. I told him all he would have to do is decide on the final contents and write a preface. Tony told me, “That’s not fair. I insist on writing my share of the essays. And I’ll do the preface, too.” And he was true to his word.
Unlike Evie, I didn’t witness a childhood friend’s body being pulled out of the woods, and I didn’t lie to that dead girl’s father, didn’t become friends with her best friend, didn’t start a chain of events that led to trouble . . . big trouble. But I did know a girl who was murdered by a serial killer, and my curiosity about her death led me to obsess about her well into adulthood.
Mr. Peanut came out yesterday, and the BookPage staff rang in the publication at a packed reading/signing at Davis-Kidd Booksellers and a party at a local restaurant. Author Adam Ross is originally from New York, though he said Mr. Peanut is his "Nashville book" since he started working on it about 15 years ago after he moved to town with his wife.
In BookPage, reviewer Jillian Quint gave a perfect description of the novel: "Through three men’s interlocking though asymmetrical narratives, Mr. Peanut tells the story of all marital strife—with an emphasis on the ugly side, replete with violence, pain, inertia, manipulation, sexual longing and destruction." As you might imagine, the story is complex, and I won't describe it other than to say it's got one of the most interesting and unique structures I've seen in a book all year. (I finished it two nights ago and stayed up until 2 a.m. reading. Ross told me he thinks the book is best read in "chunks," and I agree—you won't want to put it down, anyway.)
If you have the opportunity to see Ross on tour, I would go for it, as Ross (a child actor—and you could tell from his expressive voice) was an entertaining reader and very engaged with the audience. See the cities he's visiting here.
Notoriously harsh Michiko Kakutani called Ross "an enormously talented writer" in the New York Times and Mr. Peanut "induced nightmares" in Stephen King. Last night, people who had either started or finished Mr. Peanut were noticeably excited about the book, and here at BookPage editors have been fighting over review copies. I think it's safe to say that Ross's debut novel is already a hit, and there will be many readers eagerly waiting for his next project: story collection Ladies & Gentlemen.
Have you read Mr. Peanut? Is it on your TBR list? What authors have you enjoyed meeting?
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
FSG, $28, August 31, 2010
At this point about I'm about a quarter into Freedom, but I couldn't wait to share an excerpt with you. That same crackling dialogue that I loved in The Corrections is back; the same absurd family situations that make you think, "These people are insane." (And then, "These people remind me of my family.")
The novel starts with an essay called "Good Neighbors," the very same that The New Yorker ran in 2009. This introduces us to the seemingly perfect (but soon to become unhinged) world of Patty and Walter Berglund, a couple in Ramsey Hill, Minnesota. After their lives seem to collapse—their son's moved into a Republican family's house next door—the narrative turns to Patty's teen and college years, through her marriage to Walter. (You can read the first chapter of that section in The New Yorker, too.) Then, it comes back to 2004—and that's where I am now.
The excerpt is from the "Good Neighbors" section.
In the earliest years, when you could still drive a Volvo 240 without feeling self-conscious, the collective task in Ramsey Hill was to relearn certain life skills that your own parents had fled to the suburbs specifically to unlearn, like how to interest the local cops in actually doing their job, and how to protect a bike from a highly motivated thief, and when to bother rousting a drunk from your lawn furniture, and how to encourage feral cats to shit in somebody else’s children’s sandbox, and how to determine whether a public school sucked too much to bother trying to fix it. There were also more contemporary questions, like: What about those cloth diapers? Worth the bother? And was it true that you could still get milk delivered in glass bottles? Were the Boy Scouts O.K. politically? Was bulgur really necessary? Where to recycle batteries? How to respond when a poor person of color accused you of destroying her neighborhood? Was it true that the glaze of old Fiestaware contained dangerous amounts of lead? How elaborate did a kitchen water filter actually need to be? Did your 240 sometimes not go into overdrive when you pushed the overdrive button? Was it better to offer panhandlers food or nothing? Was it possible to raise unprecedentedly confident, happy, brilliant kids while working full time? Could coffee beans be ground the night before you used them, or did this have to be done in the morning? Had anybody in the history of St. Paul ever had a positive experience with a roofer? What about a good Volvo mechanic? Did your 240 have that problem with the sticky parking-brake cable? And that enigmatically labelled dashboard switch that made such a satisfying Swedish click but seemed not to be connected to anything: what was that?
Ernie Cline, the screenwriter behind 2009 movie Fanboys, has signed a "major" (aka $500,000+) deal with Crown to write a novel titled Ready Player One.
The book is described as "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory set in the world of massive multiplayer gaming, TRON, and Hot Tub Time Machine."
Online magazine Daemon’s Books has already asked if Ready Player One will be the new Avatar (there's already a movie adaptation in the works from Warner Bros., with Cline writing the screenplay). Here's more on the plot:
“Player” combines a young teen protagonist and a virtual world in its story line. The story follows an outcast young teen who escapes from the harsh realities of his life by logging onto a virtual world known as Oasis. While in Oasis users can lead drastically different lives from those they experience in the real world. When the creator of Oasis dies, he leaves a vast fortune as the prize in a massive treasure hunt that takes place within his virtual world.
Sloane Crosley's first book, a collection of essays titled I Was Told There’d Be Cake, because a surprise hit and a New York Times bestseller. How Did You Get This Number, Crosley's sophomore effort, "is decidedly more grown-up," writes Katie Lewis in a review for BookPage. "It matures, say, from a fabric scrunchie to a sleek hair clasp without losing any of the can-you-believe-this-is-actually-happening-to-me moments."
There are a couple of trailers available for the book, which was released last week. Watch, and let us know: Will you read How Did You Get This Number?
What's on your TBR list for the week?
If you need any ideas, take a look at our new content highlighted on BookPage.com. Seems like our reading picks have taken a turn for the dark: murder-by-peanut, murder in Italy, Dracula. . .
This week, make sure you check out:
An interview with Adam Ross about debut novel Mr. Peanut
Ross spent 13 years writing his first novel, Mr. Peanut, in which an apparently loving husband fantasizes about the death of his wife, only to see his horrific dreams come true. With its layered storyline and allusions that range from Hitchcock to Escher, Mr. Peanut is being hailed as one of the season’s best debuts. BookPage asked Ross to elaborate on the novel’s inspirations and themes.
Note that the Q&A on BookPage.com is an expanded version of the interview in our July print edition. For more on Mr. Peanut (which will be available in stores tomorrow), read a review of the novel or an excerpt on our blog.
A behind-the-book essay from Dracula's Guest editor Michael Sims
“Would you like to edit a vampire anthology?” the editor asked me.
“Victorian vampires,” George clarified.
“I’m your man.” Fresh from writing my fourth book about natural science, I jumped at the thought of a holiday jaunt across misty moors.
Also, browse reviews of Michael Sims' books reviewed in BookPage.
A roundup of June mysteries from BookPage's Whodunit column
Leading off the first summer month of mystery reading is A Question of Belief, the latest Commissario Guido Brunetti novel from Donna Leon. Regular readers may remember that I have been singing the praises of European mysteries for some time now, and Donna Leon’s books are in the vanguard of that august group.
Anyone looking for a great book to read this summer read would benefit from a scroll through the comments sections of our Mockingbird post and contest. More than 300 readers have contributed their thoughts on which contemporary books will still be highly regarded 100 years from now.
An unofficial tabulation shows Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel The Help as the runaway top choice of Book Case readers, once again demonstrating the book's broad-based appeal. Linda writes, "I believe THE HELP will become a classic — to be read and studied in classes and in book clubs for generations to come. 100 years from now it will be interesting to see how much progress we have made when it comes to race relations. Hopefully, nobody will believe people treated other people this way!" June writes, "I agree that The Help is a 'must read.' We who lived in the Northern part of the U.S. were not really aware of the injustices in the South during that period. A lesson in that book for all!" And we loved this comment from Morgan: "Without a doubt I would pick The Help as my new classic. Skeeter Phelan is Scout Finch all grown up and she isn’t about to let anyone tell her what is right or wrong, she already knows it! I have been in the book business for 8+ years and have not found a book since To Kill a Mockingbird that I have fallen in love with this much, it will be a classic!"
Though there are far too many choices to list them all here, these are some of the other contemporary books that have received mentions from multiple readers:
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson
The Road and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
It's interesting to see how our reader list overlaps (or doesn't) with The Millions list of books that have won the most literary prizes from 1995 to the present. Edward P. Jones' novel The Known World tops the prize list but was chosen by only one of our readers, while Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is second on the prizewinners list, but didn't get a mention from any of our readers (though it would certainly be on my own list of future classics. Could there be a book that better captures the waning days of the 20th century?)
The contest closes Monday, so there's still time to add your thoughts.